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Lena House

Paddington, Australia
Smart Design Studio
Corso Terra Drag Wire VT

A grand Victorian terrace

Smart Design Studio was engaged by a repeat client to breathe new life into a grand Victorian terrace in Sydney. Central to the transformation was the conversion of an existing single-story garage into a contemporary infill structure that houses spacious stairs and lifts connecting all five levels. A narrow full-height slot window connects the historic facade to the clearly expressed new brick form.


The site had an almost vacant piece of land beside it, the carport between the house and neighboring property. This presented an opportunity to put a sculptural stair and elevator that connects all the floors of the five-story house. This unlocked the floorplan and removed the great divide in the middle, which was the staircase. As a result, there’s a better flow throughout with gracefully proportioned rooms from front to back.


The street-level slab was removed to the rear of the house to create an airy light-filled double-height space with brick blade walls. Light now penetrates well beyond the new combined living and dining space and into the kitchen. This subterranean space is no longer dark, flowing on from the reimagined room with exaggerated proportionality and vast hanging walls for the client’s extensive art collection.
In addition to providing a visual connection to the front addition, the brick blade walls form deep reveals that shade and allow for the flush opening of tall steel-framed doors onto the courtyard.

These also ensure a comfortable temperature year-round for the space, keeping the hot summer out while allowing the lower winter sun in.
Brick was the natural choice for the new addition for a sensitive response to the Sydney streetscape.
The Corso brick complements the painted rendered walls of the heritage area yet reads in a contemporary way. The new brickwork lightly touches the existing masonry, a strip of glazing running in between the two elements.


Masonry complementing Sydney's streetscape

Environmentally sensitive elements were stitched into the old and new parts of the house, including hydronic floor heating and cooling, natural cross ventilation and avoidance of air-conditioning, exploitation of good solar orientation, thermally massive construction, and heat-exchange technology. Contemporary insertions are clearly expressed within the interiors, made using understated materials and fine details to ensure they sit comfortably within the heritage spaces. The clean lines and minimal detailing of the Corian kitchen provide contrast to the existing textured sandstone walls at lower ground level. A custom steel bookshelf is similarly finely crafted and solid yet decidedly modern.


A lawn, splash pool, and paved area for entertaining were accommodated within a relatively small footprint while maintaining rear-lane accessed garaging and storage. While the design was driven by functional requirements, it was resolved to sit elegantly within the bays defined by the brick blades of the back elevation. Each element within the intricate puzzle is considered to make up an attractive yet hardworking whole from the courtyard that steps down to accommodate parking at a lower less unobtrusive level to the bluestone and marble-lined pool.